From FCC Express, by Owen Roberts
Worried Ontario farmers continue to look to the sky for sun, but they’re seeing mostly rain.
The southwest part of the province has been repeatedly drenched since the spring. Farmers were holding out hope for hot and dry spells as summer officially arrived.
But that hasn’t happened. Some corn crops from west of London through to Chatham-Kent look good, but almost everywhere else in the south, crops have fallen behind. Wheat fields are at a particularly critical period.
Dale Cowan, senior agronomist for Chatham-based AGRIS Co-operative and Wanstead Farmers Co-operative, says even with good tile drainage, 10 to 15 per cent of the crop in many fields is missing.
These numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“Farmers will face management challenges because of these conditions,” Cowan says. “There are a lot of confounding factors that will influence their management decisions.”
One factor is the rising price of corn. Because it’s back up to $5 or more a bushel, Cowan expects producers will be tempted to try salvaging even a poor crop.
“Prices have rallied,” he says, “and farmers are excited.”
But whether they can overcome problems such as nitrogen loss remains to be seen. Time marches on, and at some point soon, nitrogen applications that were impossible during wet weather will be neither practical due to the crops’ height (even stunted). Nor will they be able to spark much additional yield.
And then there are the opportunistic diseases and pests. Wet fields also prevented crop protection measures from being taken in many fields.
For example, in Essex County, fusarium head blight is rampant, says Cowan. Most wheat fields have it, and even in fields that were sprayed, the disease is only suppressed, not prevented.
There are concerns too over the possibility of western bean cutworms, which are now being recorded in very small numbers.
In tomato fields, just this week late blight was observed near Leamington.
And as for soybeans, they’re heading into the flowering stage, and scouts are on the watch for white mold. Cowan says farmers will try to limit the disease’s spread with timely fungicide applications.